An abandoned girls’ school just south of Kabul, vacated after students discovered an explosive device. A threatening “night letter” ordering the school to be closed was left at the local mosque before the attempted attack.

© 2005 Human Rights Watch/Saman Zia-Zarifi

Most Afghan girls still do not attend school more than four years after the Taliban were replaced by the government of President Hamid Karzai. For many, the reason is insecurity: it is simply too dangerous for students and their teachers to go to school, or for aid organizations and the Afghan government to construct new schools. Human Rights Watch has documented more than 200 attacks from January 2005 to June 21, 2006, of schools being blown up or burned down, teachers killed and threatened, and students intimidated.

This growing crisis was predictable and avoidable. The international community, led by the United States, failed to provide the economic, political, and military support necessary for securing the most basic rights of the Afghan people. As this report demonstrates, this power vacuum was exploited by the Taliban and other armed opposition groups carrying out suicide bombings and attacks on “soft targets” such as schools and teachers to instill terror in ordinary Afghans and thus demonstrate the central government’s inability to protect them. These attacks are war crimes.

Human Rights Watch calls on the Taliban and others carrying out these attacks to immediately halt these attacks. Human Rights Watch also calls on the Afghan government and the international community to place the welfare and security of ordinary Afghans at the heart of their policies.

Map: Attacks on Teachers, Students, and Schools by Province: January 1, 2005 - June 21, 2006